Works Orchestral Compositions

“From Jewish Folk-Poetry”. Orchestral version

Opus 79 Opus SO

Opus 79a
1948 year

Shostakovich’s Vocal Cycles.


Town of Gorky. Orchestra of the Gorky Philharmonia. Conductor G. Rozhdestvensky. Soloists: L. Avdeyeva, G. Pisarenko, A. Maslennikov.

first publication:

1982. D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol. 31, Moscow.


The hand-written score is in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 2048, Inv. 3, Item 9).

“From Jewish Folk-Poetry”
Song Cycle for Soprano, Contralto, Tenor and Orchestra

    The idea for a vocal composition on verses from Jewish folk poetry arose after Shostakovich became acquainted with a collection of song translations.
   The copy of the collection of poems in the composer’s library, from which he took the texts for his cycle, is full of pencil notes that testify to the long process of selecting the poems.
   Shostakovich initially marked 24 texts in the Contents in red pencil. Only five of them: ‘Sun and Rain’, ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby’, ‘My Son is the Fairest in the World’, ‘Listen, Khasya’, and ‘Ele, the tavern keeper’ were used in the cycle.
   Later, having made his final selection, the composer marked all the poems chosen for the first, eight-part, version of the composition in the actual text of the book, including ‘Oh, Abraham’, ‘My Sheyndl is lying in Bed’ and ‘The Roof is Sleeping in the Attic’, which were not marked in the Contents.
   At different stages of the preliminary work on the selection of texts, 48 poems drew Shostakovich’s attention, only eleven of which were eventually used in the cycle.
   Two complete author’s manuscripts of the cycle have survived: an earlier one, which belonged to Galina Ustvolskaya and is now kept in the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel (Switzerland), and a later, final, one, which is kept in the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art (RSALA) in Moscow, where Shostakovich submitted it.
   Shostakovich performed the eight-part cycle, which he considered finished, for friends and students in August-September 1948.
   Shostakovich began writing the orchestral score right after he finished the eight-part version of the composition. The three new parts were first written in the score, which was completed and dated on 1 october. The entire composition in the piano score was completed on 24 october.
   The premiere of the orchestral version was first held abroad. On 9 and 10 September 1963, the cycle was performed at East Berlin’s Metropolitan Theatre by Maria Croonen, Anneliese Burmeister and Peter Schreier accompanied by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kurt Sanderling. The songs were performed in German translation by Alfred Kurella.40 In October 1963, a studio recording with the same performers was done.
   The first performance of the cycle with an orchestra in the Soviet Union was held during the Second Contemporary Music Festival in Gorky (15-23 February 1964), entirely devoted to Shostakovich’s oeuvre.
   The entire cycle of Jewish Songs was not performed with professional singers at home until 25 September 1950. Among those invited (a total of 45 people) were Svyatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, composers Moisey Vainberg, Nikolai Peyko, Yuri Levitin, Revold Bunin, pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva, Samuel Marshak, film director Leo Arnshtam, and Isaak Glikman who came from Leningrad.
   The premiere of the cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry was held in leningrad on 15 January 1955 in the Glinka Hall at an ‘Evening with Dmitri Shostakovich’. It was performed by Nina Dorliak, Zara Dolukhanova, Alexander Maslennikov, and the author. On 20 January, the cycle was first performed in Moscow by the same ensemble in the Small Hall of the Conservatory.
   During 1955, the composition was also performed in Minsk, Riga, Vilnius and Gorky.


  • State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia named after E.F. Svetlanov. Soloists: Sharova T., Kuznetsova L., Martynov A. Conductor: Polyansky V.K. 1996 // CHANDOS CHAN 9600, 1998
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. Soloists: Wenkel O., Zöderström E., Karchikovsky R. Conductor: Haitink B. 1983 // DECCA 425 069-2, 1993
  • Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Soloists: Fomina N.V., Sinyavskaya T., Mishechkin A. Conductor: Yurovsky M.V. 1995 // CAPRICCIO 10 778, 1998
  • Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Soloists: Orgonazova L., Stutzman N., Langridge F. Conductor: Järvi N. 1992 // DeutscheGrammophon 439 860-2 G H, 1994
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. Soloists: Wenkel O., Zöderström E., Karchikovsky R. Conductor: Haitink B. 1983 // LONDON 444 430-2 L C 11, 441-2, 1995
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam Soloists: Wenckel O., Zöderström E., Karchikovsky R. Conductor: Haitink B. 1983 // DECCA 417 581-2, 1987